I am old enough to remember a time before emails, sms, Facebook, Twitter etc. and something has been bothering me for a while. It’s to do with our manners.
I remember as a child waiting weeks for letters from pen pals but these days, flurries of emails are exchanged in a matter of minutes. Everything travels so fast today, it’s hard to imagine that waiting for a response used to be the norm. So my question is this – since we can send our communications faster, is it reasonable to expect a response faster as well?
I used to think that when messages were left on the phone, people would return calls on the same day if they could. If they didn’t return your call, it was either because they were away or something terrible had happened. Lately, this doesn’t seem to be the rule anymore. People decide whether the call was important and make a decision about whether they will fit in to their busy schedules and in that decision is an implicit judgment about how important you are to them.
What rules then apply to communications such as email? If you have a desk job, someone who sends you an email knows that in all likelihood, you’ve received their email. If you have a Blackberry or iPhone, you’ve almost definitely got the email. How do you make a decision about when to respond?
So much junk floats around online that it seems we may be finding it harder to discern what should be important from what’s not.
Have you used any of the following excuses for not returning calls and emails?
“I meant to respond, but didn’t get round to it”
“I’ve been really busy”
“I didn’t get your message”
TIP #1 – If you aren’t able to respond to emails within 24 hours, acknowledge the email so that the sender knows you’ve received it and set expectations about when you will get back to them. A simple “Thanks. I will look into it and get back to you” will take mere seconds.
Without doubt, some of these excuses are genuine but as more and more of our lives move online, our activities are also getting more transparent. So when you tell someone that you were too busy to return their call or email, consider that they may know you weren’t too busy to post a Facebook update!
I think this issue has implications not just for our personal lives but how we conduct ourselves in work and in business. It has implications for credibility, trust and reliability so think carefully about whether these things matter to you.
TIP #2 – Consider using an autoresponder if necessary
So what do you think? Have our manners gone down the toilet or have the rules changed?